Happy birthday Pong!

Posted by David Konow

It seems incredibly primitive by today’s standards, but Pong is indeed one of the most important games in history.

And with all the hoopla over the incredible success of Halo 4 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2, it almost went unnoticed that Pong is having its 40th birthday on November 29.

Pong was Atari’s first release in 1972, and Allan Alcorn designed the game. The title was actually a project assigned to Alcorn by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, the founders of Atari.

As we recently reported on TG, Pong wasn't the first coin operated arcade game, as that honor went to Computer Space. However, while Computer Space is long forgotten today, chances are pretty good that many still remember Pong, just from the basic computer graphics alone.

 
Alcorn knew electrical engineering and computer science, but he had no previous computer games experience. Actually, who did back then?

This was when computer games were all pretty brand spanking new, so Pong was a way Alcorn could familiarize himself with making games. The assignment was fairly simple - create a game with paddles, a moving ball, and numbers to keep score. 

 
Once the prototype was completed, it was moved to a local bar where customers would pay to play it, and the rest is video games history. Midway, who was famous for its pinball games, wanted to manufacture Pong, but Bushnell decided that Atari should do it themselves, and home gaming consoles where you could play Pong started hit shelves in 1973. 
 
It’s amazing to think the gaming industry grew from these simple origins, and it’s a trip to think we wouldn’t have Halo and Call of Duty today without the humble beginnings of Pong. But again, everything has to start somewhere, and the journey of a thousand miles always begins with single step. Pong was that step 40 years ago, and we’ve sure come a long way since.